Ummmmm... Whaaat??

When God Delivers in Unexpected Ways
Part II

Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!
— Ezekiel 33:11 ; Matthew 18:5-7

This is the second part of looking at instances where God delivers in unexpected ways. I want you to understand that my goal is to always be honest with you, even when it comes to difficult passages of the scripture and difficult instances of God delivering His people from the world of sin and death. The two main instances in this portion are difficult passages of scripture for many to accept - but they communicated very important and reassuring aspects of God’s nature. They communicate the depth of His desire to deliver His creation from the world created by sin and death.

Take a moment to read the two passages at the top. They show two very important things that are true at the same time - all the time - in God’s character:

1. God does not delight in or take pleasure in the death of the wicked and desires them to turn (repent) and live. (be delivered)

2. God takes seriously the protection of His children (those following the Lord - not just people of young age) and will not tolerate or excuse forever those who do anything to lead those children into sin. (He will do what is necessary to deliver His children)

It is important that you keep both of these in mind throughout the context of these passages so that you can grasp God’s actions and intentions described in them.

We talked about Canaan last week and it was an unfortunate situation. Another instance where things were good, then got really bad, really quick. I want you to keep in mind that the major sin that started in the beginning with Cain and Able was murder and eventually the world got so bad God decided to destroy it to deliver the faithful into a better situation. Then, we had a two fold issue where Noah gets drunk, exposes himself and his son Ham commits some terrible sexual sin (notice how the drunkenness and sexual sin is paired so closely here - a complete loss of self control in both instances). This week we are going to see the ramifications of Ham’s actions in the life of his son Canaan (remember he was cursed because of the actions of his father) and his family through future generations.

Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn and Heth, and the Jebusites, theAmorites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, the Arvadites, theZemarites, and the Hamathites. Afterward the clans of the Canaanites dispersed. And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon in the direction of Gerar asfar as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far asLasha. These are the sons of Ham, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations.

Genesis 10:15-20

Notice two things here:
1. The clans of the Canaanites dispersed, which means they left the tents of their brothers in the offspring of Shem and Japheth - this is disobedience to the curse and an abandonment of the deliverance God gave to Canaan’s line in making them the “servant of servants.”
2. Do you see where the Canaanites spread out to? Yes, what would later be Sodom and Gomorrah. Remember that.

Now, Abraham comes along as a 9th generation descendant of Shem, along with his nephew Lot. This is a long period of time that has taken place where we don’t hear exactly what went on in the other cultures around them.

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”(think of that promise of the woman’s seed crushing the head of the serpent)

 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.  And Abram took Sarai hiswife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan,  Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.  Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.  From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD.  And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb.

Genesis 12:1-9

Here we have Abram (who will become Abraham) promised two things:

1. God will make of him (through his children) a great nation blessing those who bless him and curse those who dishonor him (in this culture, the child is the extension of the father and is often recognized by the fathers name and notoriety - and he father would be known in reverse for the son’s fame or shame, thus why Ham was cursed though Canaan so Ham faces the shame instead of Noah facing the shame by Ham being cursed directly). I want you to think about that son being known for the father’s name and the father being connected to the son’s actions in light of our being children of God and ambassadors for His name. That is a huge blessing, to be seen as an extension of His glory and righteousness but we must also be mindful that we do not shame His name by living lives poorly reflective of that glory and righteousness.
2. God promises Abraham the land of the Canaanites for his offspring (we will see there is a caveat in there that most overlook in relation to God’s care for both the faithful and the unfaithful).

In Genesis 17 Abraham has his name changed from Abram to the Abraham we are familiar with today, he is given the promise of the birth of Isaac and a reiteration of the promise of the lands of Canaan. He is them informed of the Lord’s intention to judge the people of Sodom and Gomorrah for their evil practices and desires. This is what happens:

Then the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”

So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.

Genesis 18:20-33

Pay vey close attention to what happens here. The exchange between Abraham and God is not just recorded because it took place, it is recorded as a reassurance to us that God had made His decision with much consideration before deciding to judge these people in this way. Abraham learned something important in this exchange, namely that God does not take lightly the death of the innocent, nor will He wrap the righteous in with the judgement of the unrighteous.

We learn two very important things here as well, which we must remember:

1. God judges the wicked for their deeds and seeks to prevent the spread of wickedness after a certain extent of wickedness.
2. God considers His actions and protects the righteous and innocent while judging the wicked.

Ultimately the only ones left from the city end up being Lot’s family and the two angels that were present to bring the judgement. The whole chapter is worth a read and illustrates how evil the people in the city had become. The portion below is something I want you to look at, regarding the length to which the angels went to making sure Lot and his family were NOT caught up in the destruction of the city:

As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.” But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords. Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved!” He said to him, “Behold, I grant you this favor also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.

Genesis 19:15-22

If you go on in the chapter, you will see that immediately after Lot is saved from the circumstances of Sodom and Gomorrah, a city judged for their pride, arrogance, and sexual immorality, his daughters (like Ham) commit an act of sexual immorality with their father out of their pride and arrogance. The cycle of sin is perpetual and has direct effects on those who are exposed to it. It is, without question, that the daughters sensibilities of what is sexual appropriate was distorted during their time in Sodom and Gomorrah. Even in the destruction of the city, the evil of the city continues to propagate. This is important to remember when God makes decisions to remove large groups of people out of a desire to deliver the righteous or innocent from the dangers created by the wicked.

Let’s now deal with the judgement on Canaan that God levies against them later in their history and the fairness he shows them by delaying Abraham’s blessing being realized so they had opportunity to change.

 But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded, that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God.   

Deuteronomy 20:16-18

This seems very difficult to accept. How could a loving God choose to make a decision like this? What about the women and the children? What about an opportunity to repent? Stop for a second and think about Sodom and Gomorrah. The incident there is an insight into the practice and mentality of the Canaanite land and the people groups in it. There was a clear and drastic sin culture present in that one town. We have seen how pervasive sin is from the accounts of Adam and Eve to Cain and Abel, from Cain and Abel to Noah and the Flood, from Noah and the flood to Noah and Ham, and from Noah and Ham to Lot and his daughters. Each of these cases you see a sinful situation followed up by a secondary, escalated, sinful situation influenced by the original sinful situation. What we see is that sin builds and as it builds it destroys those who participate in it and begins to destroy everyone else around.

So why the actions taken against the Canaanites?
(Two articles on how you might want to think about viewing the Canannite command from God - “God’s Mercy and Justice” and “Why…

1. God judges the wicked for their deeds and seeks to prevent the spread of wickedness after a certain extent of wickedness.
2. God has a moral imperative to protect His children (those He has called to Himself)
3. Matthew 18:5-7 “Whoever causes one of these little ones to sin… better to have a millstone around their neck and tossed into the sea…”
4. We see the rampant spread of sin, the greater the level of sin, the faster the spread and worse the escalation, in the previous stories we looked at. God protects the children of Canaan in this decree by not allowing them to grow up in sin or be sacrificed to Molech (yes, the Canaanites had a regular practice of placing babies into the arms of an idol heated to be red hot as a form of sacrifice to that God)
5. God considers His actions and protects the righteous and innocent while judging the wicked.

Ok, so we saw number 5 be true in the instance of Sodom and Gomorrah - God would not destroy the city if there were even 5 righteous present (and He even waited and had the angels DRAG Lot, his wife, and two daughters out of the city - Notice, that is 4 people… think about that). BUT, did God exhibit the same calculation in the command on Canaan and the people in the promised land? Yes, he did. Look below:

Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

Genesis 15:13-16

400 YEARS! 400 years (approximately) is the amount of time God waited to judge Canaan after giving Abraham the promise. Not until Joshua is tasked with entering the land for the nation of Israel does God finally judge the Canaanites. Because a people group named the Amorites had yet to be as sinful as they could possibly be, God gave mercy and opportunity to repent. God did not judge Canaan flippantly or quickly - He judged them graciously and slowly. Canaan had opportunity to repent and change. They chose to delve deeper and deeper in sin. God commanded they be destroyed… but were they?

NO, they were not destroyed. Joshua failed to fulfill the command of God and the Canaanites and other people groups ended up influencing Israel into worshiping the idols of their nations and practicing the sexual immorality of their people. However, you have to understand that if God is sovereign, this was also part of His plan. Did Canaan deserve to be judged? Yes. Did Israel fail to fulfill what God commanded them? Yes. Did God use this for His ultimate glory? Yes. I’ll tell you why.

Remember that verse about Canaan serving in the tents of his brothers? (Genesis 9:27) Well, when Israel takes control of much of the land, and yet failed to destroy Canaan, the Canaanites that were not destroyed were taken as servants and/or slaves to the nation of Israel. The Canaanites were serving in the tents of their brothers. This scripture was fulfilled.

In fact, as time went on we end up seeing some interesting things take place with Canaanites after the command in Deuteronomy:

And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent. - “Go into the prostitute's house and bring out from there the woman and all who belong to her, as you swore to her.”  So the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. And they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel.

Joshua 6:17;23

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Matthew 15:21-28

Rahab had believed in the Lord and because of her faithfulness and repentance she was saved from the destruction (along with her family) even though she was a Canaanite. The woman that Jesus spoke to was a descendent of the Canaanites who lived among the Greeks at the time Jesus was preaching and teaching. She had understood her position theologically in the curse given to Canaan (servant of servants in the tents of your brothers) and recognized Jesus as the Master. (Yeah, but why did he call her a dog, bruh!?) Her faith brought healing to her daughter. God was faithful to spare those who were righteous from the destruction and also fulfilled the words spoken by Noah in the curse upon Canaan and his offspring while also honoring the patience toward Canaan’s offspring as spoken in the promise to Abraham’s offspring.

So what do we come away with in this endeavor discussing God delivering in unexpected ways?

1. God does not delight in or take pleasure in the death of the wicked and desires them to turn (repent) and live. (be delivered) - Ezekiel 33:11 - 1 Timothy 2:4 - 2 Peter 3:9

2. God takes seriously the protection of His children (those following the Lord - not just people of young age) and will not tolerate or excuse forever those who do anything to lead those children into sin. (He will do what is necessary to deliver His children) - Matthew 18:5-7

3. God has a moral imperative to protect His children (those He has called to Himself)

4. God judges the wicked for their deeds and seeks to prevent the spread of wickedness after a certain extent of wickedness.

5. God considers His actions and protects the righteous and innocent while judging the wicked.

Praise God that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Praise God that He is patient in our sin and seeks ways to deliver every one of His creation from their sin
Praise God He is faithful, gracious, loving, and just in His judgement as well as His salvation.
Praise God we can trust Him to deliver us, even if in unexpected ways, in the proper way, at the proper time, and into the proper circumstances to accomplish His WILL in our lives and the lives of those around us.


Scripture Used In This Post:

Ezekiel 33:11
Matthew 18:5-7
Genesis 10:15-20
Genesis 12:1-9
Genesis 18:20-33
Genesis 19:15-22
Genesis 20:16-18
Genesis 15:13-16
Joshua 6:17;23
Matthew 15: 21-28
1 Timothy 2:4
2 Peter 3:9